Book Review: The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

Book Review: The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press and Kaye Publicity for sending me a free copy of The Dead Husband in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Twenty years ago an unspeakable tragedy rocked Rose Yates’s small, affluent hometown… and only Rose and her family know the truth about what happened.

Haunted by guilt, Rose escaped into a new life. Now she seems to have it all: a marriage, a son, a career. And then her husband is found dead.

As far as Detective Colin Pearson is concerned, Rose is guilty. Her marriage wasn’t as happy as she’d led everyone to believe, and worse, she’s connected to a twenty-year-old cold case. She can play the part of the victim, but he won’t let her or her family escape justice this time around.

Grieving her husband and struggling to make ends meet, Rose returns home, hoping to finally confront her domineering father and unstable sister. But memories of a horrific crime echo through the house, and Rose soon learns that she can’t trust anyone, especially not the people closest to her.

My Review:

The Dead Husband started out strong. It has a lot of mystery build up, with plenty of history the characters are trying to keep hidden in the past. I was really enjoying the book and was eager to find out everyone’s secrets. There is more than one piece of the past being hidden and I was curious to see how everything would fit together in the end.

However, the ending of this one really let me down. First of all, it felt rushed. After all that build up, and at almost 400 pages, everything came crashing down all at once, and there wasn’t a sense of closure, either positive or negative. Also, the big twist at the end felt a little on the unrealistic side, which is something that really bothers me. I was left feeling really disappointed, because I liked the book up until the last 30 pages, so I guess I will go right down the middle with this one and rate it at 2.5 stars.

Book Review: Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins

Book Review: Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins

Synopsis:

When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers.

As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.

But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why is Felicity silent?

My Review:

Magpie Lane was such a lush book to get lost in! I wouldn’t necessarily call it atmospheric, but the Oxford setting, the old master’s house and the scholarly college vibes made for a very immersive reading experience. I love when a book gives you the chance to see a behind-closed-doors look at the lives of posh people, and Magpie Lane delivered that. Nick and Mariah are those type of people that seem to have it all together, but only the parts that they let people see. I loved getting to see how much they dropped the ball on while trying to project a much more elevated front.

One thing that was a little hard for me was the timeline and overall format. The novel is almost like a collection of stories about the nanny’s time with the family, all told in response to questions the detectives are asking her, in their efforts to find Felicity. For the most part, the stories go in order but I felt the lines between past and present were a little muddled. Someone like me likes nice headings that tell the when and where, but this is something that might not bother most people.

I really was guessing until the end. I had a lot of theories, and one of them did turn out to be right, but I wasn’t sure until the end. I felt like this was a slow burn of a thriller, but I really did enjoy it overall. There weren’t too many characters, which is good, yet they all had their own shadowy history, so you really don’t know who to root for! A little on the cozy side, this would make a good fall or winter mystery!

Book Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Book Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for the free audiobook!

Synopsis:
here’s only been one time that Rose couldn’t stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be…dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern’s mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.

My Review:

What a fun and outside of the box thriller. The Good Sister did not start off as a thriller, in my opinion. It actually didn’t start feeling that tense way a thriller feels until about the 60% mark. But that’s not to say the first part of the book wasn’t enjoyable, because it definitely was!!

As a character driven novel, the book starts off by introducing us to Fern. And what a character she is! She struggles with social situations and her dialog, both internal and external felt comically relatable! She seems to be on the Autism spectrum, but that is never stated. (Note: I am not sure if this was intentional for the character and how accurate the portrayal of an autistic person is.)

The reader also gets to meet Fern’s sister Rose, albeit mostly through Rose’s journal entries. What begins as a story about these two sisters, their unstable childhood and how they are supportive of each other as adults takes a screeching 180 spin towards crazy town! The last 40% of the book was so hard to put down, it was tense, emotional and suspenseful!! I enjoyed every minute of this one and will be looking for this author’s backlist titles! 
Book Review: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Book Review: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Synopsis:

On the day she returns to active duty with the Serial Crimes Unit, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is called to a crime scene. Dismembered body parts from two victims have been found by the river.

The modus operandi bears a striking resemblance to Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer, who has spent the past two years behind bars. When he learns that someone is co-opting his grisly signature—the arrangement of victims’ limbs in puzzle-piece shapes—he decides to take matters into his own hands.

As the body count rises, DI Anjelica Henley is faced with an unspeakable new threat. Can she apprehend the copycat killer before Olivier finds a way to get to him first? Or will she herself become the next victim?

Drawing on her experience as a criminal attorney, debut novelist Nadine Matheson delivers the page-turning crime novel of the year. Taut, vivid and addictively sinister, The Jigsaw Man will leave you breathless until the very last page.

My Review:

Let me start by saying that The Jigsaw Man is the best book I have read so far in 2021! Yes, that good! Let me follow that up with a trigger warnings: this one is on the violent side. The serial killer being tracked is pretty brutal, and his crimes are described in the book. The descriptions are not over the top gruesome, however Matheson doesn’t hold back, either. If that is hard for you, consider yourself warned.

So what made this my favorite book of the year? Quite a few things! First, the character development is fantastic. In the police procedural style mystery novels, many times the main detectives and characters are described in terms of their jobs. The reader gets to know what history they have as a detective, and often times he or she may have trauma spawning from difficult cases in the past. In The Jigsaw Man, we get all that but so much more. DI Anjelica Henley had such a realness to her that I actually found extremely relatable! She is a married, working mom, just like so many of us, and is also struggling to balance it all. Bring in her trainee Ramouter and the dynamic blossoms even more! When Ramouter joins the case as Henely’s trainee, she is less that enthusiastic, yet as they work together a bond forms and she finds out that Ramouter is not only a good detective but a good person. I loved watching their relationship grow and cannot wait to see where they are heading in the next book!

At just under 500 pages, I was a little wary. Did this mystery really need all those pages to find a killer? The answer is yes! I didn’t get bored once, something was happening on literally every page and I just could not read this book fast enough! The plot is one of the most intricate and well planned out that I have ever read, and I was also able to easily follow along. Some of the more complex detective novels can get a little confusing, but not The Jigsaw Man. Everything fit and made sense and the ending is left as a very unusually cliffhanger. I am anxiously awaiting book 2!

Unfortunately, I feel like I write the worst reviews for the best books, I just want to say I LOVED IT over and over! I hope I did this one justice, it really is so incredibly good!

Book Review: What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton

Book Review: What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton

Thank you to Crooked Lane books for providing me with a free digital copy of What You Never Knew in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Idyllic Avril lsland, owned by the Bennett family, where their hundred-year-old cottage sat nestled in acres of forest. Forty-year-old June Bennett believed that the island had been sold after the summer of her father’s disappearance when she was only twelve years old. It’s months after the shocking death of her older sister May in a fatal car accident, that June finds out that the cottage was never sold. Avril Island is still owned by the Bennett family and now it’s hers.

Still reeling from the grief of losing her sister, June travels back to Avril lsland in search of answers. As she digs, she learns that the townspeople believe her father may in fact have been murdered rather than having abandoned his family in the dead of night, as she was led to believe by her mother. And that’s when she begins to notice strange things happening on the island–missing family possessions showing up, doors locking on their own, unexplained noises in the night, shadowy figures disappearing into the woods. It takes June no time at all to realize that her childhood summers at Avril Island were not at all what they had seemed to be.

My Review:

I am a sucker for an atmospheric novel and this one hit the spot. June’s childhood summer cottage is on it’s own private island, in the middle of a lake. Having been closed up for 30 years, she heads back to see what is left of it, and also to find some answers to her unconventional upbringing. What ensues is a story about a woman starting over, finding herself, and also dredging up dark secrets from the past.

I really enjoyed this one, and it was a quick read. The author did a good job of building up the characters of this unusual family, especially considering all but one of them are dead. The chapters alternate between June and her sister May as a spirit. However, I don’t feel like that gave it a supernatural feel, it was more like the reader could feel just how close the two sisters were, and I felt that those parts were very well done. The mystery elements adding a nice air of suspense that of course I loved, and the twist at the end was fun, but not all that surprising.

However, I don’t feel like this one was correctly marketed. It’s out there as a dark and ominous thriller. This was not a thriller. Yes, there is a mystery surrounding June’s past and there are some shady characters, but I felt like the focus of this book was more on June’s recovery and how she is dealing with the grief of loosing her beloved sister. I did like the book, but if you are looking for a fast paced thriller, this is not the one. But if you are in the mood for something engaging but a little lighter, you might really like What You Never Knew.

Book Review: Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

Book Review: Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson has become an auto-read author for me and his newest thriller was no exception!

Synopsis:

Abigail Baskin never thought she’d fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He’s a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships.

But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he’s tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss… including her perfect new husband.

My Review:

What started out as a typical domestic thriller, Every Vow You Break took a wild turn at the end of the book and I loved every minute of it! With topics of love, marriage, and infidelity, Bruce and Abigail are all set to walk down the isle and then leave for a surprise honeymoon location. However, Abigail is in for the shock of her life!

The character development in this one was just ok, but the plot was great. I would definitely call this a popcorn thriller, it was fun to read and hard to put down. The ending is absolutely bananas, and while I have heard other reviewers mention that it is unrealistic, I viewed it from a metaphorical point of view. I can’t say much more without spoiling it, but I really liked it and what I felt it represented. I will continue to read whatever Swanson puts out!

Book Review: A Pairing To Die For

Book Review: A Pairing To Die For

Thank you to Berkley publishing for providing me a free digital copy of A Pairing to Die For in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

It’s fall in Boulder, Colorado, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. Parker Valentine, owner of Vino Valentine, is finally settling in to her winery and her new relationship with Reid Wallace, a local chef. But their delicate pairing is endangered when Reid’s estranged family comes into town to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant.

Reid and his family are immediately at loggerheads, given their often acidic temperaments, but Parker still wants to make a good first impression. However, her efforts might be in vain when Reid’s sous chef is found dead in the alley behind the restaurant, and Reid is implicated in the murder. In order to save Reid, Parker will have to find the real killer, even if the truth is difficult to swallow.

My Review:

Another fun installment in the series, A Pairing To Die For was heavy on the mystery, this time around. Some of the same, lovable characters return, but there wasn’t as much focus on food and wine, which I feel like I missed. I wanted to spend more time in Parker’s winery. But overall an enjoyable read that was surprisingly fast paced! Looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: My Dark Vanessa

Book Review: My Dark Vanessa

Thank you to William Morrow books for sending me a free copy of My Dark Vanessa in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

My Review:

This was one powerful book, but I do want to start off by disclaiming a trigger warning: the entire book is about grooming, sexual abuse, and rape. So if those things are difficult for you, this book is going to be difficult for you as well.

With that being said, I think that the story within these pages is a very important story to tell. And while it’s not based on a single true story, the authors note mentions that the story is based on pieces and parts from many of these true stories that have occurred over the years. The amount of power men have used against women over the years is atrocious and while this book was an uncomfortable read, I feel like it had to be that way to truly get the point across.

The chapters in this book go back and forth between Vanessa‘s high school days leading up to and into her relationship with her teacher, and 20 years in the future. This was a very smart way to write the story because it demonstrated two different things. The first, was showing the difference between how people reacted to accusations of rape even just 20 years ago versus how they react to them now. The difference is astounding. It also showed just how deeply the inappropriate relationship Vanessa had with her teacher affected her for the rest of her life. The reader gets to see just how much the relationship skewed Vanessa‘s view of men, love, and relationships forever. 

And that is what I think is the most important point. A man grooming a young girl just to get sex from her is only thinking as far as the next time he can take her to bed. But he’s not thinking about how this will damage her and how it will affect her and how long the inappropriate relations will negatively affect her life. For him it’s just sex, but for the girl it is life-long trauma, and that is the big picture painted in this book.

This is one of those books that I can’t say I loved it because it was so uncomfortable but I can say that it was amazingly well written and I’m so glad I read it. These stories need to continue to be told, whether they are truth or fiction, brushing these things under the rug is no longer acceptable.

Book Review: Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

Book Review: Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

Thank you to the author for sending me a free copy of Betty in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

So begins the story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a white mother and a Cherokee father, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit in the rural town of Breathed, Ohio, is one of poverty and violence–both from outside the family and, devastatingly, from within. The lush landscape, rich with birdsong, wild fruit, and blazing stars, becomes a kind of refuge for Betty, but when her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, she has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters.

Despite the hardships she faces, Betty is resilient. Her curiosity about the natural world, her fierce love for her sisters, and her father’s brilliant stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination, and in the face of all to which she bears witness, Betty discovers an escape: she begins to write. She recounts the horrors of her family’s past and present with pen and paper and buries them deep in the dirt–moments that have stung her so deeply she could not share them, until now.

Inspired by generations of her family, Tiffany McDaniel sets out to free the past by delivering this heartbreaking yet magical story–a remarkable novel that establishes her as one of the most important voices in American fiction.

My Review:

A bold and vibrant story about family, Betty is one of those books that stays with you for a long time. I loved getting to know the tough-as-nails Betty, as well as her enigmatic father and other family members. This family’s story is one of love and strength and overcoming all the difficulties life has to throw at you.

I do feel it is important, however, to mention that this book comes loaded with trigger warnings. Graphic scenes of rape and violence made sure to tell the whole story, every gritty detail of it, but I don’t think I am necessarily a fan of that. I personally felt like the novel became an account of every bad thing possible, and that took focus away from the depth of the characters and what could have been shown of their inner struggle. I wish the focus had been more on how the family reacted to these events and how they got through them, but the extreme focus on the actual events took center stage instead.

With that being said, I have to keep in mind that this book does represent the struggles of poverty, women, racial injustice and so much more. So it could be argued that this book is very real and shouldn’t be criticized. I have also kept in mind that this novel is based on a real life. So I will just say this: if you are ok with dark content and deep stories, then this book will probably work well for you.

Book Review: The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell

Book Review: The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell

Thank you to Atria books for sending me a free copy of The Truth of Melody Brown in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

When she was nine years old, Melody Browne’s house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it. But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took with it all her memories – Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a council flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn’t mind, she’s better off on her own. She’s made a good life for herself and her son and she likes it that way. Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember. At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her to the seaside town of Broadstairs, to oddly familiar houses in London backstreets and to meetings with strangers who love her like their own. But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past…

My Review:

This book was an absolute delight! Although Jewell is now known for her clever psychological thrillers, The Truth About Melody Browne isn’t one. This book is actually 12 years old and published in America for the first time in January, and many of Jewell’s older titles are more in the genre of women’s fiction. But don’t let that dissuade you: even though The Truth About Melody Browne isn’t a thriller, I couldn’t put this one down!

Melody felt so real to me and was such a loveable character! I can’t remember rooting for a fictional character as much as I did with Melody Browne! Her story was so compelling but also equal parts sad and inspiring. This novel is a story about family, both the family you are born with and the family you choose. It’s about love, friendship and finding yourself amidst the craziness of life. It’s about finding out where you belong and recognizing a good thing when you see it.

A full cast of eclectic characters added the magical touch to this book that I just could not put it down. I would recommend this to people that don’t have the strongest family ties, or those that didn’t have conventional childhoods. But I also recommend it to any reader with a hear beating in their chest. An absolutely wonderful story, I give this book five stars!